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Disruption is a ‘buzz’ word that is creating fear for many business owners. No-one wants their industry to be the next Uber or Air BnB. Successful businesses will continue to innovate to avoid this happening. One of the current trends is towards transforming paper-based processes into an automated workflow and digitising them using the ‘cloud’.

Proof of this can be seen in the growth in spending on cloud computing. It has been growing at 4.5 times the rate of IT spending since 2009 and is expected to grow at 6 times the rate of IT spending in the next 3-5 years. Whether we’re ready for it or not, the cloud is now ubiquitous and unless small and medium-sized businesses embrace this trend they will surely fail.

Whilst big business has been leading the charge with automating processes early adopters in the SME market have also been busy. However, International Data Corporation predicts that more than two-thirds of digital transitions will fail by 2018. Its report, “FutureScape: Worldwide CIO Agenda 2016 Predictions,” indicates 70 percent of siloed digital transformation initiatives will fail due to insufficiencies in the areas of:

  • collaboration,
  • integration,
  • project management
  • sourcing

You can make your business one of the successful transformers though by following simple guidelines when digitising your processes and procedures.

Steps to Successful Digitisation

  1. The most important step is to fully document your existing processes. This should be done by someone who is not familiar with the process so that all steps and the tacit knowledge they hold are not missed. Skipping this step will only lead to user frustration and eventual failure because the new system will probably not work.
  1. Analyse cloud app providers. Some recommend using hybrid solution providers. Others recommend using different providers that specialize in one area.  Interview each provider to determine what works best for you.  Address the key area of migration services.  Does the cloud provider handle migration, use a third-party migration partner, or leave it all to you?
  2. Choose one process or procedure to transition and the cloud provider. For example, you might move employee onboarding paperwork online or time reporting. Make sure your provider provides scalable solutions or can easily integrate with other cloud apps.
  3. Prioritise other process and procedural transitions. Build a schedule, but transition items one at a time. This lets employees adjust gradually.  Employee buy-in is a vital success component.
  4. Transition the first procedure to a cloud app. Working with your cloud provider, train employees in advance of the go-live date. Achieve a successful first transition before moving on to migrate another procedure.  Success occurs when employees become comfortable with the new procedural method and report no glitches.
  5. Transition the next prioritized process. Digitising processes and procedures should take time. Rushing creates problems.

Picking a Starting Point

Most business processes now have multiple cloud app options. The following ten common categories of business processes offer easy entry to cloud apps for any size business.

  1. Accounting: Cloud apps provide improved workflow, task automation, lower bookkeeping costs, easy integration with other apps, and improved data safety. Popular choices include Xero, MYOB Essentials, QuickBooks Online, Reckon One & Saasu.
  1. Email: Rather than set up your own server, cloud solutions let you enjoy better security, increased collaboration opportunities, long-term backups, and integration with other apps. General e-mail packages include G Suite from Google, Office 365 and Zoho Mail. Email marketers favour MailChimp and HubSpot Sales.
  2. Data Storage: Avoid the need and cost of physical storage servers. Moving to the cloud lets you trade hardware, maintenance and staff costs for a scalable solution with mirrored backups and improved security. Many individuals already use popular business solutions such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and Tresorit, a solution providing end-to-end encryption.
  3. Security: Cloud security solutions provide active system-wide monitoring, automatic notification, and improved long-term network stability. Consider using OpManager, Solarwinds, Spiceworks Network Monitor, WebRoot Smarter Security, and Zabbix.
  4. Meetings: Why waste time travelling to in-person meetings? Video conference instead. You’ll have a recorded copy of the meeting to share with those unable to attend.  Cloud solutions provide instant scalability and improve collaboration.  Consider the following apps: GoTo Meeting, Join.Me, OnStream Meetings, ReadyTalk, Zoom.
  5. Project Management: Increase productivity, improve team collaboration and beat deadlines more often with project management software accessible from anywhere. Try ActiveCollab, Basecamp, Teamwork Projects, Trello or Zoho Projects.
  6. Document Management: Save space, ensure ready access, improve security and enable electronic signing with a cloud app. Consider using Agiloft, CobbleStone Systems Contract Insight, Coupa Contractually, Gimmal Contract Management, or Mitratech Getting Contracts Done.
  7. HR and Payroll: Many companies begin by moving the employee timekeeping activities online. Eventually, they transition all human resources aspects to the cloud. This speeds workflow and improves record keeping and accessibility. Consider using Deputy, BamBoo HR, Gusto, Sage People, Zenefits Z2 or Zoho People.
  8. Business Intelligence: Software as a Service (SaaS) automates data collection and provides insights with a click. It levels the playing field by allowing small businesses to access analysis and reports big businesses use. SaaS solutions save time, enhance data access, and make sharing insights easier. Try Entrinsik Informer, iDashboards, Geckoboard, Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Qlik Sense.
  9. Customer Relationship Management: Moving to cloud CRM cuts costs, reduces maintenance and provides on-the-go access to your sales force via tablet or smartphone. Popular solutions include Base CRM, Insightly CRM, Pipedrive CRM, Salesforce CRM or Zoho CRM.

With a little planning, your business can successfully leverage the SaaS trend and benefit by digitising most processes and procedures.  You’ll save time, money and increase productivity.  You’ll think your business started running itself.  Get started today. 

About David Officen

David is the Founder and Managing Director of proCFO.
David combines an accounting and consulting background with commercial experience both as a manager for large commercial businesses and as the owner of private and family businesses.

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